Eat Drink and Be Merry – Your Holiday Strategy for Healthy Digestion
“Eat, drink and be merry” is the slogan of the holiday season, and there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that, with parties and festive dinners featuring eggnog, chocolate, and cocktails as just a few of the festive favorites.
It’s easy to get down with the celebratory eating and drinking part, but digestive disturbances can leave you feeling not so merry.
With the abundance of decadent dishes and sugary snacks over the holiday season, overindulging is considered by many to be part of the fun! However, even the healthiest of us can suffer some uncomfortable consequences, including tummy aches, gas, bloating, constipation, and nausea. And the celebratory fare isn’t the only thing to blame – holiday stress also interferes with healthy digestion and is difficult to avoid in all the social obligations and merry-making.
But there are some great digestive-protective strategies that can help see you through the busy holiday season with minimal discomfort. Here are some helpful tips to help keep digestion running merrily along.
There’s no joy in saying no to all your favorite traditional holiday treats. Enjoyment in moderation and stocking up on some digestive-supporting natural health products can help.
Digestive enzymes. These are helpful if you anticipate some harder to digest foods in your near future. Derived from pineapple, papaya or animal pancreas, enzymes assist your body in breaking down macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Enzymes are present in our own digestive systems but decline as we age and are depleted from cooked and processed foods.
Coconut water and sparkling fruit juices are delicious to have on hand as celebratory beverages, and are a healthier alternative to alcohol which can be disruptive to the gastrointestinal tract.
Plenty of fibre keeps digestion moving smoothly and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Keep fibre-rich foods stocked up at home and on hand for on the go snacking including fruit (fresh and dried) vegetables, whole grains or even a fibre supplement.
Ginger tea or natural ginger chews can help to quell nausea and soothe an upset tummy.
Visit your local health food retailer to choose the products that will give you the best support, as well as offer some advice on other helpful holiday supplements.
Also – plan ahead! Stress plays a huge part in our digestive health and how our body processes food! Filling out the calendar and to-do lists ahead of time can help manage stress, and prepare you and your family for parties, parades and potlucks by remembering to pack water bottles or contribute a healthy dish.
Deck the (Digestive) Halls with Probiotics!
Probiotics – foods and supplements that contain live bacteria – are crucial for keeping your digestion running smoothly. The importance of “good” bacteria in our gut has become well known, along with their role in our digestive, and overall health.
Stress, alcohol, too many processed foods and sugar can upset the balance of intestinal bacteria which doesn’t just lead to bloating, it can also affect our immunity, which can make or break our holiday plans (as they happen to coincide with prime cold & flu season).
Fermented foods, prebiotic foods (those that feed healthy bacteria) and probiotic supplements can all help to fortify your health, and have even been shown to support mood. Stock the fridge with a few jars of sauerkraut, have a warming bowl of miso soup, incorporate fruits and veggies into every meal and visit your local health food store to select a probiotic for the whole family.
Try a Little Mindfulness!
This may be easier said than done in the season of giving but taking some time to pause and sit with one’s thoughts and feelings can help with stress, decision making and yes – digestion! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a closer look at why and revise plans to be more manageable. When your body is in “fight or flight” mode, then digestion is not its priority and discomfort is bound to happen. If you know that certain foods, or food combinations cause discomfort, then reflect before making a conscious decision whether to eat them. Use eating as an opportunity to slow down and be present – and remember to chew (your digestive system will thank you). When you do indulge in some holiday delights – take the time to savour and really enjoy them – that is the whole point!
Keep Calm and Carry On
…with your usual healthy habits. Even if you know you will indulge in a few cocktails and some sweets in the evening, eat your usual healthy, balanced meals throughout the day – you will less likely to go overboard later. Be extra conscious of hydrating and stick to your regular exercise and bedtime routines as much as possible This will help you to feel balanced (including your digestive system) and manage stress in the holiday whirlwind! If you do overindulge, then reset with some digestive support supplements (enzymes, probiotics) and be gentle with yourself.
Some preparation and mindfulness can go a long way in keeping you happy and healthy over the holiday season. A few simple tips will keep bloating and gas away from the festivities, so you can enjoy the feasting and merriment with family and friends this holiday season.